Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Spirit Place - Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Finished with the Riverboat Postman by 1pm. The weather is a bit iffy (ie rainy), but we decide to head on over to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and see when we get there if it's OK for going for a walk and a swim. It's considerably further east from where we are here at Brooklyn and we need to head back down the Pacific Highway to Mona Vale Road and thence take the turn at McCarrs Creek Rd.

I must be getting old. Maybe it's all part of empty nest syndrome or something, but travelling down past Turramurra and down Mona Vale road turns the amplifier up on my emotions of this morning. Mona Vale road is a very large road, 6 lanes, however it is a very lovey road too, and of course the major route for travelling from my childhood home to my Aunty's place at Turramurra.
All of the upper north shore is just beautiful. The locals love trees, the streets are green and shady and the fact that they get way more rain than the rest of Sydney doesn't hurt at all.
We take a comfort stop at the new facilities at Resolute picnic area and change into our swimming togs (cozzies). I am absolutely thrilled to see that the picnic area has a wonderful stand of Sydney Red Gums (Angophera Costata) which I can photograph to show you. I am hoping very much to do justice to this magnificent tree which has added so much to my enjoyment of our bushland wanderings over the last week or so.

On one of the trunks you can make out the patches of grey. Notice the beautiful curly branches which lead up to a glorious canopy of limey green new growth.
I spend an age photographing the bark of the trees in the picnic area. I am highly delighted to find heaps of magnificent bark specimens on mature trees that are suited to my purpose. There is even a red gum who is just starting to shed, it's bark breaking up and starting to curl in just the way I've been hoping to find ...

The bark sheds and forms a beautiful confetti of rich colour around the base of the tree. Everywhere in the bush about now each tree is putting on a spectacular bark shedding show. The colours of around this tree are simply glorious. A symphony of rich browns.

Another delightful feature of Angophera Costata is that it's roots don't choose to stay underground, rather they emerge in places to be surrounded with a beautiful carpet of leaf litter providing a lovely companion to a lichen encrusted rock close by.

But wait! There's more! Sydney red gum also has that feature we all loved as a kid, when it bleeds it's sap dries to a glossy red which sparkles in the sun like jewels and stains the trunk beautifully...
This picnic ground doesn't just have magnifient red gums though. There's also the grey gum (Eucalyptus punctata). At this time of year the bark is a textured grey, but in the cooler months it also sheds it's bark exposing bright orange bark, which especially after rain is like a beacon in the bushland. It is especially noticeable in the bushland reserves around Kentlyn near Campbelltown. One of my top three native trees. The Sydney Red Gum is number 1 of course.

The other in the trio, is also in shedding mode. This one I find when we get back to the parking area for the Steel and Flint track. Scribbly gum (Eucalyptus haemostoma).
Surely all Australians love scribbly gum, being promoted as it is in Snugglepot and Cuddlepie - children's books by May Gibbs and Australian classics. The scribbly gum often is multi-trunked like this one. They like a sandy soil, so I've had to plant another scribbly gum rather than haemostoma in my own garden.

The bark delights of the picnic ground are not yet exhausted however, there is also what I think is a bloodwood, it's tesselated bark stained almost black with sap flows on either side of its trunk.

And this other fellow I'm sure of the species.. these ones seem particularly attractive to green lichen and the whole trunk often gives a green effect.

The bark is a key diagnostic feature for identifying Australian trees one from the other - ark and gum nuts - leaves are less helpful as so many have similar leaves.

We head back to the Flint and Steel Track we park and make our way down the slope. The sound of cicadas dominates. It is the sound of summer. In a short time we come to snatches of views across Broken Bay to a sandy shore.
The path is mostly pretty rough which is the way I prefer my bush tracks but in places proper stairs have been constructed which help to navigate the steeper sections. The whole walk is basically a climb down the hill to the beach (for swimming) or the point (for fishing). Change in elevation is over 200 metres I understand.

Alongside the stairs is a beautiful stand of spear trees.
There are a number of obstacles in the form of fallen trees along the path at the moment. Some are easier to navigate than others. This one gives us pause for thought. At first I think perhaps under might be best, but no, too close to the ground so unless I plan to slither along on the dirt like a snake.....how about going round.. hmm.. slope too steep and vegetated..Hubby is taller than me of course and he finds it a fairly simple endeavour to just put his foot on the trunk and hop over...with no other option I finally manage to climb over it OK after handing over everthing I was carrying.
We come to a sign letting us know we've got 700m to go and follow the directions to the beach. Pretty soon we emerge onto the edge of a gully with cabbage palms, moist and shady and a delight to walk through.

We emerge to an area with a cluster of trunked black boys. These are popular for home gardens but they never look better than in their native environment.
We continue to get snatches of superb views across the water and can hear the surf breaking on the beach before emerging just above the beach with views across to Lion Island and out to the Pacific Ocean across Broken Bay.
Kangaroo grass is all around. This is my very most favourite native grass and has extremely ornamental seed heads making a lovely frame for this shot of the water views.

We have passed a couple of groups of people coming down and are delighted to find that we have the beach to ourselves. It was stroke of genius to come a couple of days before christmas when people are busy with their preparations for the celebrations.
The crabs are still hanging on on this beach and we have to take care to avoid disturbing anyone's home.
I chase hubby away the dune grass, it can't take being walked on, and we deposit our belongings. Hubby heads straight for the water, but I'm in camera mode and want to get some shots of a magnificent red gum that is growing straight out of the rocks of the headland. While I'm there I have a look over at the rock pools, where I admire the neptune's necklace. This seaweed is great to play with for kids (when you can find stuff that's already dislodged from the rocks of course!) Squeezed in just the right way each segment can be shot at your siblings or friends. It's marvellous fun.
As I pick my way around on the rocks trying hard not to step on anyone I think of the carpet of periwinkles and turbans and other shells that were so thick on the rocks at Long Reef and Narrabeen when I was a kid that you couldn't walk on the rocks. No problem for modern man of course. Just put something on your feet and go ahead and trample the poor creatures. I don't know whether it was the foot traffic or the pollution, or probably both, but the rocks are comparatively bare in these places now so it is nice to see at least a smattering of shells here.
I was reading in Nevil Shute's Beyond the Black Stump that in Oregon USA they have (or had) what they call "primitive areas" where the protagonists were not allowed to hunt with guns or take motorised vehicles. Only horses and bow and arrow. I guess our wilderness areas are the equivalent - in our case it's only walk in walk out and definitely no hunting... I think to myself that perhaps we should have places where you are only allowed to go in bare feet.. that would give people pause for thought before rampaging around off the track or over the rock platform across the white worms and periwinkles...

I join hubby for a swim. Heading out past the breakers it is still shallow enough to stand. The swell just enough to provide entertainment. We discuss my shoe free zone idea for a while. As we frolic in the water a small school of fish start leaping out of the water in front of us as they are chased no doubt by a bigger fish. A few shark jokes later and we swim a lap of the beach and wander together over to the rocks.

It just doesn't get better than the weathered sandstone around Sydney and the formations and colours here are superlative. Exactly what I've been looking for. I take a heap of photos, most of which have turned out wonderfully.

Hubby draws my attention to a lace monitor that is wandering about the rocks. He's making his way away but does not seem overly fussed.

We can hear occassional thunder from the clouds building. Typical of a warm Sydney summer day by the coast (when we're not in severe drought of course).
We begin to head back to the sand and snap some more photos of this magnificent red gum which seems to be growing out of sheer rock. This is Sydney's tree and this is the time of year to really appreciate her. Isn't she a beauty with her party dress on!!

Its coming on for 4:30 and there is some shade on the sand. We think it might be nice to spread our towels in the shade and relax for a while. We mosey on over but everywhere has someone's home so we decide we'll just go sit on the rocks for a bit.
As we sit enjoying the serenity the peace is violently and comprehensively destroyed by a jet ski travelling along with a large pleasure boat. I think bad thoughts directed at this person and comment to hubby that I'm sure this individual is having fun, but why does his fun have to be so intrusive on everyone else?.. Hubby replies "yeah, I was just thinking they should bring back guns.." This peace shattering device can still be heard at an intrusive level when it must be several kms away.. grrr... it is quite a contrast to the older working boat that follows a little while later and which we can barely hear at all. We appreciate our good fortune that for the time we've been here the noisier vessels have not been around as we did hear several when walking down that were loud enough to annoy us even there.
As we sit over on the rocks the raven that was on the beach when we arrived flies back down. He's clearly glad to see the back of us.

We toy with the idea of another swim, but we're relatively dry and I don't think my skin is keen for any more sun and it's starting to spit with rain a little. It's not real comfy walking up the hill dripping wet either, so we decide that we'll head off but swear to come back again soon.
Hubby tears off up the path ahead not keen to watch me stop every 5 feet for photographs. I head off in bare feet as was the custom all through my childhood. I find the path a lot easier to negotiate that way and there is a beautiful soft layer of she-oak leaf fall most of the way providing a lovely surface to walk on. Before he gets too far ahead, hubby requests I photograph a great rock that is sitting by the path.

Alone to commune with the environment I enjoy the song of a grey shrike thrush and the maniacal cackle of a grey butcher bird as I climb the steep steps along the way. The scenery strikes you quite differently heading in the opposite direction. It's a lovely walk very natural without the track being overly intrusive in many sections.

At one point in need of a break I notice a lovely clump of grass that is wavering in the breeze.
Steel and Flint Beach is a beach you have to work for. It's not an easy walk in either direction. Thank goodness for that. May it stay a (relatively) isolated place of beauty..
We decide to give West Head a miss today. It has spectacular views out across Pittwater and Barrenjoey to the Pacific Ocean and is certainly worth a look if you haven't seen it and have the time.
As we drive in the direction of the park entrance we pull over as I want to try to photograph what I believe to be Angophera Floribunda which I have been seeing this week everywhere in abundant bloom.

Stopping we notice that here and there all around among the other wildflowers are christmas bells in flower. How delightful! They are only small but a very pretty wildflower and I guess they hold a special place being another of the flowers associated with the christmas period.

Nearby one of the local grevilleas is also blooming.
With so many wildflowers around we decide to walk the Willunga walk. This is a short walk of only 1.5 kms return. We are quickly rewarded with flowering hakea sericea - a very tough spiky plant that gets horny fruits.

There's another that looks a lot like a dainty drumsticks, and a very fine little purple grevillea, very subtle like many native flowers it would be easy to miss. There are bushes of tiny yellow pea shaped flowers, and lots of tiny white starry flowers on low plants near the ground. There is even a tiny tiny little purple pea flower that couldn't be more than 2 mm across. Very dainty indeed.

We also come across a spear tree with a spear under construction.

Though the walk is level for quite a while it begins to climb and there are glimpses over the water to the north. Eventually you emerge however, to a natural lookout over the bushland as far as the eye can see south towards Sydney and to the south east across Pittwater crowded with moored boats and Newport to the Ocean. It is breathtaking. Here I catch up with hubby who is sitting on a rock (there is no fencing here) soaking it up. By now it's about 6 oclock so with that and the cloud the light could be better for point and shoot photography...

The trees round about have new growth - ie new gum tips in the local language. The new growth glows red. One tree is really putting in an effort with both gum tips and blossom.

It's starting again to rain a little and we reluctantly get up to go. The path down is easy of course and I am struck by the intense russet velvet of new growth on a bansia serrata. The banksia serrata are preparing to flower everywhere we've been lately but I haven't been able to get in position to be able to photograph them. At any rate this new growth is very striking, the red will pale and disappear as the leaves grow.

This day on the Hawkesbury and particularly in Ku-ring-gai chase national park has been somewhat of an epiphany. All the things I have been looking for to decorate the new house, I realise are from this place. This place of my earliest childhood. My spirit place. Suddenly I know where I want my ashes scattered with a certainty that is somehow a deep sense of peace. My father wants to be scattered over Pittwater or Broken Bay, his will gives instructions and allots money for us to hire a boat for a period and spend time in this place in his memory. This is his spirit place too and I finally understand in a way I never have before.

No comments: